Should You Stay Married For Your Children?
- Friday, May 17, 2013
Though Linda says it is wrong to stay in a marriage for the sake of the kids, from my experience working with thousands of couples, I state unequivocally that it is wrong to divorce without first considering your children.
Consider the Children’s Present
Children sometimes desire things that are bad for them. We understand the confused emotions of a child who begs to stay with a sexually abusive parent. The child abhors the abuse but loves the parent and fears being without him. As much as it breaks our hearts to witness the child’s pain, we know that we must remove the parent’s opportunities to hurt the child. We think of the child’s welfare. We do not allow their emotions to deter us from protecting them.
However, that is much different from diminishing the importance of a child’s emotions because they conflict with what we desire.
If those considering divorce allowed themselves to empathize with the pain in the hearts of their children, and their agony poured out in supplication to God as night after night they beg Him to make their parents love each other again, how could they not seek ways to repair rather than end their marriages?
Children did not ask their parents to bring them into the world. Therefore, it is not the children who owe the parents. Parents brought their children into this world. That means the parents have responsibilities and obligations to their children.
Every day our organization works with people whose marriages are in crisis. We hear the stories – infidelity, control, selfishness, and much more. When we hear of abuse or fear, we encourage people to get themselves and their children to safety. However, most stories involve behaviors that are not dangerous, though destructive to relationships. Behaviors that can change if either or both is willing to stop the things they should not do and start the things they should to make love take root again. Sometimes one spouse hurt the other deeply and must find the path to forgiveness. The hurt partner decides whether to forgive, and, if they are willing to do so, to learn how to reconcile their relationship. We witness the pain, frustration, and anger. Yet, since 1999 we have witnessed thousands of seemingly unsalvageable marriages develop deep love again.
For many of them, their deep love for their children motivated the effort to repair their marriage. Because they knew their children craved and needed two loving parents, they pushed aside their anger and hurt long enough to find the help they needed.
Recently, a woman we helped posted this on Facebook, “This morning as [my young daughter] and I were saying our prayers on the way to school, she said, ‘Jesus, thank you that Mommy & Daddy love each other and go on dates’. If ever I doubted choices in forgiveness, in that moment all doubt was gone. Lots of thanks, first to God and also to [our organization].”
The greatest thing any parent can do for a child is to love his or her spouse.
The most selfish thing a parent can do is to end their children’s current family because they decided they love someone else. Thousands end their marriages and put their children through pain because they feel that the new person they love is more important to them than salvaging the family they have. Sadly, they have plenty of Linda’s who cheer them on, telling them that their children will get over it. They emphasize happiness over responsibility. They forget that happiness always roots itself in what is happening and, therefore, constantly changes with time. They sacrifice the essential for the superficial, the life-long for the here and now.
Consider the Children’s Future
It happened over 50 years ago, but he lives it again when he tells it. You see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. At five, he was the youngest of a large farm family. One day his parents gathered the children in the front yard and announced their divorce. The father moved several feet away from the mother and then told the children that each should walk to the parent they wished to live with. At five, my friend had just moments to make a decision he would live with for the rest of his life.
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